Mexico: AMLO Receives Julian Assange’s Father and Brother, 97 Legislators Ask Biden to End Persecution Against Wikileaks Founder

MAY 3, 2023 by

Mexican President AMLO hosted Julian Assange’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton on April 20, 2023. Photo: Twitter/@lopezobrador_.
Mexican President AMLO hosted Julian Assange’s father and brother, John and Gabriel Shipton on April 20, 2023. Photo: Twitter/@lopezobrador_.

Caracas, April 29, 2023 (—The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reaffirmed his support for Julian Assange after a meeting with Assange’s father and brother, who were in Mexico during the global days of protest for Julian Assange, on the occasion of four years of the journalist’s arrest by the British police and subsequent imprisonment in the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison in London. As part of the protest actions, 97 legislators of the ruling MORENA party sent a letter to the US authorities, calling for the end of persecution against the Wikileaks founder.

On April 20, AMLO received John Shipton and Gabriel Shipton, father and brother respectively of Julian Assange, at the National Palace in Mexico City, the seat of the Mexican government. “We will continue to defend Julian Assange, he is a political prisoner and his case is an unacceptable offense against freedom of expression,” the president wrote on social media after the meeting.

Furthermore, on April 21, John and Gabriel Shipton addressed met with the Congress of the Republic, the lower house of the Mexican parliament, at the invitation of MORENA’s parliamentary group. As part of the events of the day, the documentary Ithaka, in which John Shipton describes the Assange family’s fight for justice, was shown at the National Film Archives of Mexico (Cineteca Nacional).

Journalist Alina Duarte, a coordinator of the movement for Julian Assange in Mexico, pointed out that his case “can set a precedent so that any journalist, any human rights defender around the world would be at risk, given that the United States has decided to try an Australian citizen, who has Ecuadorian nationality also, under US laws, in British territory. The United States is trying to set an exemplary case to send a message to all journalists throughout the world, that anyone who dares exposing crimes against humanity will be persecuted, regardless of national borders.”

Julian Assange, 4 Years Into His Imprisonment

Gabriel Shipton, in his speech, thanked the Mexican government and the legislators, and especially President López Obrador for his unconditional and unwavering support over the years. “Mexican lawmakers have been at the forefront of a global movement for freedom of expression… calling for Julian’s freedom but also all our freedoms,” he said.

John Shipton commented that the Mexican lawmakers’ action “has opened a new door in the fight for Julian Assange.” He also thanked the people and the presidents of Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Venezuela for their support and solidarity.

“This new power emanating from Latin America has begun a change in the geopolitical circumstance of the world,” he noted. “Important in that change is the freedom of Julian Assange, and the freedom of each of us to speak to each other and publish what we think freely.”

Congresswoman Susana Prieto Terrazas proposed the creation of a permanent commission of various parliamentary groups, belonging to all parties with parliamentary representation, that would work with US Congressmembers to draft and put forward resolutions for Julian Assange’s freedom directly to the US government.

97 Mexican lawmakers call on Biden to free Assange
In a letter addressed to US President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, 97 members of the Mexican Senate, the Mexican Congress, and the Congress of Mexico City demanded immediate freedom for Julian Assange. Mexican Senator Citlali Hernández, MORENA general secretary and one of the signatories of the letter, and journalist Alina Duarte delivered the letter at the US embassy in Mexico on April 11, the fourth anniversary of Assange’s unjust arrest in UK.

The signatories expressed through the letter their “collective concerns about the US request to extradite journalist and publisher, Julian Paul Assange, from the UK to the US, and the chilling precedent that extradition would set for other journalists and publishers around the world.”

The legislators pointed out the political nature of the 18 charges that the US Department of Justice alleges against the founder of Wikileaks, especially given that the US authorities want to try Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917. “Assange carried out standard journalistic practices, which include receiving classified information from a source within the government and then publishing that information in public interest,” they stated. “Charges under the Espionage Act would criminalize these routine practices that are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.”

The signatories listed all the human rights violations to which Assange has been subjected by US and British authorities, including the CIA spying on him throughout the seven years that he stayed in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, in addition to the miscarriage of justice in his extradition trial in the United Kingdom.

Turning Tides: US Congress and Julian Assange

“We join the call for the immediate release of Mr. Assange made by international organizations at the United Nations, Amnesty International, other human rights defenders, and legal, medical, and other professional associations,” the legislators stated.

“We urge the US Department of Justice to drop all charges against Assange,” they concluded.

Later, in a press conference at the Mexican Congress, the promoter of the initiative, Congressman Manuel Vásquez Arellano, accompanied by Congressman Jorge Barrera Toledo, Senator Citlali Hernández, and journalists Alina Duarte and Rafael Barajas, stated that the Wikileaks founder will receive political asylum in Mexico, as has already been offered by President López Obrador.

Rafael Barajas highlighted how the case of Julian Assange is a classic example of the “world turned upside down”. “What we are seeing is incredible,” he said. “Julian Assange was arrested and remains in prison, while those who promote wars, those who commit genocide, they remain free, enjoying life, and, in fact, someone even got the Nobel Peace Prize, as is the case of Barack Obama.”

On April 11, 2019, Assange was pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had lived for seven years under political asylum, and since then has remained incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison, although there is no sentence against him. The US government is at the point of being able to extradite him to US soil, where he potentially faces 175 years of imprisonment. Human rights groups, journalists’ organizations, social movements, United Nations officials, and presidents and politicians of countries across the globe have called for the freedom of Julian Assange. Many have also expressed concerns about the grave risks to Assange’s life if he is extradited to the United States. However, until now, the US government has remained deaf to all requests for dropping charges against the journalist.

Wikileaks, for its reporting on the Afghanistan and Iraq war crimes and the rendition and torture program at Guantánamo, had partnered with some of the most influential Western mainstream news outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and El País, all of which abandoned Assange after the US government started persecuting him, and some even went on to destroy his character and moral standing. Gabriel Shipton has called upon the media to rectify this, and to continue reporting on Assange’s case, on the human rights violations and procedural abuses that he has suffered; as well as to question politicians on what they are doing for Assange, and follow up on any commitment that they make. “It is a movement from the ground up that is going to free Julian,” he said.

Orinoco Tribune Special by Saheli Chowdhury